Biography of Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean (b. April 21, 1939, Baton Rouge, Louisiana) is a Roman Catholic religious sister, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, who has become a leading American advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.
Her efforts began in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1981. In 1982 an acquaintance asked her to correspond with convicted murderer Elmo Patrick Sonnier, located in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Sonnier was sentenced to death by electrocution. She visited Sonnier in prison and agreed to be his spiritual adviser in the months leading up to his execution. The experience gave Prejean greater insight into the process involved in executions, and she began speaking out against capital punishment. At the same time, she also founded Survive, an organization devoted to counseling the families of victims of violence.
Prejean has since ministered to many other inmates on death row and witnessed several more executions. She served as National Chairperson of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1993 to 1995.